Isha Sesay, journalist, activist and writer, has been appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for the UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, on 25 November. She will help raise awareness about the global scourge of violence against women and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation. Sesay always knew she wanted to use her voice, position and power to fight against injustices, abuses and violence women and girls around the world face, being the daughter of a survivor of female genital mutilation and granddaughter of someone who performed the harmful practice in Sierra Leone. She is the founder of Women Everywhere Can Lead, a non-profit organization in Sierra Leone, working to nurture and empower teenage girls to become Africa’s next generation of dynamic female leaders. “The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the urgency of this fight against gender-based violence. As an African woman from Sierra Leone, a nation challenged by gender inequity and sexual violence, I am proud to be taking on the role of UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and to commit my voice, privilege and position to the effort to achieve much delayed and much-needed change. We’ve had enough of violence against women and girls. It’s time for justice,” says the ambassador. From 2005 to 2018, Sesay worked for CNN where she focused on stories of social injustice and their impact on women and girls. Her coverage of Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria in 2014, won a Peabody Award and in 2019, she authored a book about the Chibok girls called Beneath the Tamarind Tree.
Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director at the UNFPA, says this call for justice and equality sets the stage for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence where the world is uniting to end abuse and discrimination against women and girls. She says as violence continues to rise amid the pandemic with 15 million additional instances of gender-based violence projected for every three months of lockdown, taking action has never been more imperative. “Isha Sesay is a gifted storyteller who has used her platform to elevate the voices of some of the world’s most marginalized women and girls. She is a passionate advocate with a unique ability to inspire adolescent girls in Africa and beyond to believe in their own agency and potential. UNFPA is delighted to welcome Ms. Sesay as a Goodwill Ambassador, championing issues at the heart of our mandate,” says Kanem.